PARIS: According to the European Space Agency, the first astronaut — or astronauts — with a physical impairment might be revealed as soon as this Wednesday.Due to stringent screening criteria, people with physical disabilities have historically been barred from one of the most prestigious and difficult positions on Earth and beyond.The “parastronaut project” required “a fundamental change in thinking” with regard to the concept of medical ability, which was initially utilised by the military in the selection of fighter pilots, according to Guillaume Weerts, the ESA’s chief of space medicine.
After conducting a feasibility study, the ESA stated that potential candidates might include persons who have anomalies in their lower limbs, whether through amputation or congenital issues.They may also apply if they were shorter—up to 1.3 metres (4.3 feet)—or if they had different-length legs.
The applicants still needed to fulfil the same psychological and academic requirements as any other astronaut. The application period closed in June 2021.In the course of its ministerial meeting on Wednesday in Paris, the ESA is anticipated to announce the names of four to six new European astronauts who are not disabled.
Although the parastronaut project is partly independent, according to Weerts, it is possible that “one or more people with impairments” will also be featured in the announcement.
– Disability is not a barrier
In the highly precise field of space flight, even small changes can become very expensive and complicated.For instance, according to Weerts, the current systems are made for people of a specific height.
“What does that suggest for a smaller person? How can we be certain that they can simply access the buttons?”
The ESA aims to work with those who are selected to establish the best way to handle these possible issues.